3. Encounters

From the very beginning the Bauhaus wanted its work to be seen outside Germany, not least in order to attract students from all over the world.

With this in mind, in 1920 Walter Gropius wrote letters to Japan, Mexico, Turkey, Brazil, Peru and Chile, praising the fact that the Bauhaus was known »beyond Germany’s borders« and that its »many artists from many countries (…) had international renown.« Gropius’s endeavours were continued by his successor, Swiss architect Hannes Meyer, who invited prospective students to come to the Bauhaus in several languages in the Bauhaus’s own magazine. In 1929 there were 140 German students and 30 foreigners, from Poland, Russia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, the USA, Palestine, Turkey, Persia and Japan. Weaver Gunta Stölzl later wrote:

»The international student body promoted cooperative learning among comrades.«

Gunta Stölzl

Some of these students were to take the Bauhaus idea around the world, participating in international architecture tenders and founding their own institutes. Examples are the Hungarian Sándor Bortnyk, who established the »Mühely« – the »little Bauhaus« – in 1928 in Budapest, and Takehiko Mitzutani, cofounder of the Japanese »Institute for Life Design.«

Bauhaus products also found their way around the world right from the start. In 1922 there were sales outlets in Vienna, Amsterdam, Leicester, and the USA, offering items from the Bauhaus workshops. The Bauhaus also showed its work in exhibitions all over the world, including a presentation in 1922 with pictures by masters and students in Calcutta, together with contemporary Indian painters. In 1929 there was a touring exhibition of Bauhaus work, shown in Basel, Zurich, Breslau and other cities. In the same year works from the Bauhaus workshops were shown at the World’s Fair in Barcelona, and in 1930 there was a touring exhibition in the USA (Harvard, Cambridge and New York) and the World’s Fair in Barcelona. In 1931 Hannes Meyer presented the first Bauhaus exhibition in Moscow, which focused on the years 1928–1930, when he had been director.

Many international artists and intellectuals also visited the Bauhaus, among them Solomon Guggenheim and Marcel Duchamp. Some of these guests came to hold lectures or teach, like the composers Béla Bartók and Henry Cowell, Sufi master Murschid Inayat Khan, or Naum Gabo and El Lissitzky. As these visits show, the Bauhaus was open to the world, with a crosscultural awareness that always shaped teaching and work, and which was not restricted to a »cult of India« and »Americanism,« as Oskar Schlemmer noted in 1921.

Curator: Boris Friedewald